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Biochem Cell Biol. 2002;80(1):95-102.

Lactoferrin and host defense.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Lactoferrin is a multifunctional member of the transferrin family of nonheme iron-binding glycoproteins. Lactoferrin is found at the mucosal surface where it functions as a prominent component of the first line of host defense against infection and inflammation. The protein is also an abundant component of the specific granules of neutrophils and can be released into the serum upon neutrophil degranulation. While the iron-binding properties were originally believed to be solely responsible for the host defense properties ascribed to lactoferrin, it is now known that other mechanisms contribute to the broad spectrum anti-infective and anti-inflammatory roles of this protein. In this article, current information on the functions and mechanism of action of lactoferrin are reviewed, with particular emphasis on the activities that contribute to this protein's role in host defense. In addition, studies demonstrating that lactoferrin inhibits allergen-induced skin inflammation in both mice and humans, most likely secondary to TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha) production, are summarized. Collectively, these results suggest that lactoferrin functions as a key component of mammalian host defense at the mucosal surface.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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